Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CBC Transmitters Get Stay Of Execution

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<p>Canadians using antennas to receive over the air television signals in certain cities that were threatened with losing CBC television on August 31st can relax because an application for an extension for one year was approved by the CRTC to allow CBC transmitters that were slated to shut down to operate in analog until August 31, 2012 to allow CBC to make 'alternative arrangements' for OTA viewers that would be adversely affected by CBC shutting down transmitters. <br>
The CBC has not announced what alternate arrangements they would make with OTA TV viewers.&#160; Would CBC buy cable TV subscriptions for any CBC watchers that would lose in any community where CBC is unwilling to upgrade their transmitters?&#160; The only 'alternative arrangement' that the CBC should get is any transmitters that the CBC doesn't upgrade to digital should be sold to community groups and private companies that would upgrade and operate these stations as CBC affiliates. </p>
<p>CBC's license from the CRTC is up for renewal within the one year analog stay of execution.&#160; If the CRTC and the elected officials the CRTC answers to hear from enough Canadians that, letting CBC shut down transmitters is unacceptable and doing such is a failure of the CBC's mandate of universal accessibility to all Canadians.&#160; The only alternative arrangement that CRTC would have is revoking the license for the CBC to operate their network.</p>
<p>An addendum to the story, the proposed upgrade the transmitter of CBAT, the CBC station that serves Fredriction and Saint John, New Brunswick was finally approved by the CRTC.&#160; CBC's original application was rejected by the CRTC back in January because CBC proposed installing a digital transmitter to serve Fredricton leaving viewers who rely on over the air signals in Saint John stuck with analog.  As much as it should be said that a better proposal came from the CBC that would provide digital OTA service to both Fredricton and Saint John, it's not.  The application to operate the digital transmitter is the same as the application that the CRTC rejected.  Saint John TV viewers will get the same analog service after August 31st.   For a public broadcaster with a mandate to serve all Canadians, the actions of the CBC have been running quite contrary to that mandate.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How The TV Networks Underestimate OTA Viewership

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With a few weeks remaining until free over the air TV goes digital in Canada's major cities.  Unlike the American digital TV transition two years ago,  the conversion to digital TV is much more low key.  Canada's television broadcasting industry claims that because higher usage of cable and satellite television services is the reason for the much less than enthusiastic approach to the change over to digital TV.  Canada's 30 top media markets will get digital and high definition TV over the air for free after August 31st.  Residents in small towns and rural areas who watch over the air TV from rebroadcast relay transmitters will remain stuck with analog service for the next few years.

Canada's private television networks have found themselves getting bought out by the companies that distribute their programming through wires or by satellite.  Many blame this ownership as the sole reason that television networks down play the role of over the air transmission as part of their business.  It is estimated by the TV networks 9 percent of viewers receive their programming by over the air signals.  The estimate by the television broadcasting industry only takes viewers who use antennas as their only means of television reception.  Friends of Canadian. Broadcasting estimates that 30 percent of Canadian households have at least one TV set with an antenna. 

There are many viewers of over the air signals that are not counted by any of the estimates, long haul truckers with small TV's in their rigs using just an antenna to receive TV programming during overnight stays at truck stops.  While some who tour across the country in their recreational vehicles have satellite TV service the majority of RVer's just raise their TV antenna on the roof of their unit to catch the news or favorite shows after parking at a campground for the evening.  Even a significant number of those whose second recreational home is in a fixed location such as a cottage or cabin get their television signals with an antenna. 

While Canada's private television networks are only upgrading transmitters that serve the CRTC mandated markets by the August 31st deadline, both CTV and Global are going to upgrade all their rebroadcast transmitters by 2016.  Despite the high cost of replacing transmitters is pretty high, It is in the economical interest of TV stations to upgrade to digital due to the lower operating cost through lower power consumption of digital transmitters.  Only one tenth of the wattage is required for digital broadcast compared with the analog counterpart. 

While most who are dependent on over the air TV will have a few years to wait for digital broadcasts, Global and CTV will be doing a lot more than CBC.  The public broadcaster whose mandate to be available over the air to all Canadians is staying analog in all areas that are not mandated by the CRTC until the analog transmitters reach the end of their lifespan and die and then no new transmitters will be installed.  It's surprising unexpected that the profit motivated private networks have a stronger commitment to over the air viewers than the network owned by the people for the people.